How to replace your vehicle’s number plate

How to get a number plate made for a caravan

You’ll need an extra number plate if you are towing a caravan or trailer (Picture © Tow Car of the Year)

You might think that replacing a missing or broken number plate would be as simple as visiting a local car spares store and handing over a few pounds for a freshly laminated number plate. But to protect drivers from unscrupulous criminals there are legal requirements that mean everyone must produce certain identity and vehicle registration documents before a registered number plate supplier can make up a replacement number plate. 

But why might someone need to replace a number plate in the first place? Some drivers may simply need a spare plate for their trailer or caravan. Some may have lost theirs, more common than you think given that many car makers now expect dealers to apply number plates using sticky pads. Or perhaps the plate’s laminated top layer is peeling off – and the registration numbers with it.

If any of these happen to you, don’t put off sourcing a replacement. Drivers stopped by the police for failing to display a number plate could be fined up to £1000. What’s more, your car will fail its MOT test if its number plates aren’t correctly displayed.

Another problem blighting drivers is number plate theft. Thieves remove number plates to attach them to a similar make and model of car that is stolen, passing it off as a ‘cloned’ car to an unsuspecting buyer. Alternatively, they may take number plates just to allow them to avoid paying for petrol or speeding fines, congestion and road toll charges, parking tickets or help them commit serious criminal offences, such as using a vehicle in a robbery. Should your number plates be stolen, report the theft to the police immediately.

To replace a car’s number plate, follow these steps and you won’t go wrong.

How to replace a car’s number plate: Find an authorised supplier

The easiest way to find an authorised number plate supplier is to use the online postcode search tool at the Gov.UK website. Simply enter your desired postcode and it will list local repair garages, car dealers and car spare stores in order of distance.

How to replace a car’s number plate: Documents you need

Drivers must show proof of their name and address to the retailer before they will make up a replacement number plate for them. Bear in mind that a passport only serves to confirm your name. So take any of the following identity documents:

• Driving licence

• Utility or council tax bill from the last six months

• A bank or building society statement from the last six months

How to replace a car’s number plate: Proving the registration number is yours

A V5C form is one of the accepted documents for a new numberplate

The car, trailer or caravan may belong to you, or it could belong to an employer. Either way, in addition to proof of identity and address, the authorised number plate retailer will also need to see proof that you are entitled to use the registration number. Any one of the following documents will do the job:

• Vehicle registration certificate (V5C or V5CNI)

• New keeper supplement (V5C/2 or V5C/2NI)

• A certificate of entitlement to the number (V750 or V750NI)

• A retention document (V778)

• The renewal reminder for a vehicle’s road tax or SORN (V11 or V11NI)

• A temporary registration certificate (V379 or V379NI)

• Number plate authorisation certificate (V948) that’s stamped by the DVLA or DVSA

• Alternatively, a letter of authorisation from a fleet operator, lease or hire car company, that quotes the document reference number from the vehicle’s V5 registration certificate

How to replace a car’s number plate: Regulations

Remember: new number plates have to conform to certain regulations. They must be made from a reflective material, the front plate should display black characters on a white background and the rear plate should show black characters on a yellow background. Background patterns aren’t allowed, although three dimensional characters are permitted.

Want to know more about number plates?

If you really have a thirst for knowledge about number plates, find out more in this information pack from the DVLA.

3 comments on “How to replace your vehicle’s number plate

  1. Theo 23/06/2015 11:04 AM

    What about if you’re changing your numberplate for a personalised one? Do the same regs apply? Are there any different ones?

  2. Ben Hardy 26/09/2018 1:25 PM

    Well, that was a waste of time: “how to replace a number plate” means “how do I physically go about doing it – MYSELF!”

  3. Joan McCormack 13/08/2020 5:54 PM

    I agree with Ben Hardy, all I want to know is how to put the blooming thing back on – also MYSELF!!!!

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